You Can’t Succeed in Mary Kay


Written by Carolyn

A former director’s story of her work never being good enough for success. After devoting 10 years to MK and doing “whatever it took” to keep the unit afloat and move up, she had nothing to show for it. Not even the “friends” she made in Mary Kay.

I started Mary Kay as a stay at home mom with two babies, aged 18 months and 2 weeks. My husband made $8 per hour as a restaurant dishwasher. We lived on food stamps, WIC checks, and state insurance. With $742 in our savings account, I followed my Mary Kay director’s advice and ordered a $225 inventory. It was all I could afford; although I felt guilty for not believing in my business enough to wipe out the savings account with a $600 order.

I was excited to be a part of an opportunity that would bring me the financial freedom we needed. I was told to make a poster with pictures of my goals, I remember pasting pictures of my dream house, plentiful food, the Pink Cadillac, nice clothes etc. I set deadlines for my goals and got to work.

I didn’t have family and friends willing to hold skin care classes, so I was taken to the local KMART to learn how to warm chat. After a few failed attempts, and survey cards being thrown back in my face, I got good at it. I was so good I began teaching other consultants. I would leave a store with a minimum of 10 cards.

I also was given a script to make cold calls out of the phone book. I got bookings, but they had to come to my house, or my husband had to drop me off at theirs in the evening because I didn’t have a driver’s license. At least half of my appointments were no shows. It destroyed my self esteem. I felt I was not pretty enough or smart enough for them to want to hold parties with me. I cried every time someone didn’t show up, every time someone hung up on me. But I kept on. I needed to make this work. I put in a lot of our money, and I needed to start making some back.

I admired Mary Kay and her story of falling down and getting up again. I studied the “Mary Kay Way” book from front to back. I implemented everything in the book and learned everything I could about her. I bought the tape of the month and studied everything in them. I listened to Gloria Mayfield Banks’ tape on overcoming objections, made flash cards, and memorized every card. I was doing it the right way and I sold $300 at the party last week. But I didn’t understand why my Mary Kay account was empty all the time.

Within 3 months I became a red jacket. I couldn’t get past 5 recruits because my turnover was high. My director and I analyzed why my turnover was so terrible. She claimed it wasn’t that bad for her. I learned that I needed to fix myself so I would be more “likeable”. All my “I’ people were leaving and I must be pushing them away with my “d personality”.

Shortly after that, I was “on target” for a car. I failed in the 3rd month. I was so ashamed that I didn’t go to meetings for 2 months. I knew I didn’t do it right. I just knew it. I didn’t have enough parties or interviews although I had facials at my apartment every day when my husband was at work. I needed to learn how to turn facials into parties. And I did. I entered car qualifications 2 more times and failed.

I started DIQ and failed 2 more times at that. While warm chatting, I ran into 3 customers of another DIQ in town. They were interested in the career so I took names and told the other DIQ she had 3 interviews. She made director that time, I didn’t. I knew that if I didn’t do it the Mary Kay way, I wouldn’t get my directorship. That’s what they said when people failed … they didn’t do it the right way, with the Golden Rule.

I realized that I was turning facials into parties, but I didn’t have enough parties to get enough recruits to make director. I needed a FULL schedule. The third and final time I entered DIQ, I knew I had to be obsessed and book a party every Evening and a facial every day: 7 parties and 7 facials or double facials a week. If there was an opening, I had to fill that slot or I would fail.

My second month of DIQ I was short $1,200 so I was told to prove my commitment and place an inventory order. I had never done that before, I just “re-invested” all of my profit for inventory, PCP, fall retreats, seminar, etc. leaving my MK bank account empty. I did. I finished DIQ in 3 months with 32 unit members, 31 active. 30 of them were my personal recruits. In the 5 years before becoming a director, I had recruited and lost 100 consultants.

I was going to be a top director. I wasn’t going to be one of “those directors”. You know, the negative ones who can’t maintain that position of honor. God blessed those of us who did it the Mary Kay Way. After I finished DIQ, I learned I needed $4,000 production every month or lose everything I had worked for. I was heartbroken, but knew that I never wanted to go through that again.

My unit was doing well: 2 DIQs the second year, $9k wholesale in a month, and everyone thought I was successful. That year I made only $11,000 after expenses. I had to keep up the image so they would “want my position” and work hard to achieve it. I averaged 2 parties a week (that must be why I failed, should have had 3).

I had 2 more babies and my final year as a director my production sagged because I couldn’t keep working 100%, my time was split with the new baby. I wished I could have maternity leave like everyone else who is an “executive.”

Two of my top five consultants were not attending meetings or working because they had a family crisis. My #1 was working 60 hours a week in the summertime fireworks season, and #2 had just learned her mother had cancer, and was legal agent for both parents. I knew my unit couldn’t make production. I was told that the devil was testing me and I would succeed if I overcame this. I ordered $2,000 wholesale to keep all that I had worked for and vowed to my husband if I had to invest 1 more dime of our savings again, I would return my inventory and pay him back. Two months later, that is what I did. I kept my word to my husband.

I was heartbroken to walk away. I loved Mary Kay and all I thought it had done for my family. All of my Mary Kay friends started to cut ties with me. I learned through the grapevine that “I made myself look like a failure when I returned my inventory.” Nothing I had done in 10 years of commitment, growth, overcoming obstacles, dedication to the people in my unit, dedication to Mary Kay’s dream … nothing meant anything to the people who were supposed to be my friends after I quit.

I started to read Pink Truth and realized that no matter what I did, the company is set up in such a way that you cannot succeed. The company makes all the money from the pressure to reach goals and constant product changes, etc. That is why there is such strong peer pressure to keep on after failing. Not because they “believe in you”, but because they make money from you.

And so I began my new journey in life.


  1. Kristen

    What a moving story. ? Carolyn, you have just proved every critic and Mary Kay defender dead wrong. You did “work your business” and follow every piece of MK guidance. You don’t sound bitter (although you’d have every reason to be). I can’t believe the Kaybots resorted to “ the devil is testing you”. They will say anything as they desperately try to keep you sucked in. With your work ethic and dedication, no doubt you can be (and may have already become ) a great success in a legitimate career. I’m so sorry you lost 10 years, but maybe your story here will help others see the light.

  2. Cindylu

    So sad to hear how MK exploits such vulnerable women. Women preying on women. So much Narcissism in blaming hard working individuals rather than this very flawed mlm. Also I can relate to trying to this with children. We are told we can be successful and work around children. Reality is that we miss out on so much of our family and children. Hopefully you have gone on to find a real career/job that allows you to earn a real weekly pay check and still be there with your children.

  3. NayMKWay

    Carolyn’s story illustrates Mary Kay in a nutshell: It’s never enough, and it’s all your fault.

    It’s never enough. No matter what you accomplish, you’re told you’re “on track” for some loftier goal. You must not sit on your laurels, or they’ll wilt. What you’ve done to get yourself “here” won’t get you “there.” Keep working, keep spending money on pretend training materials. Stay on that hamster wheel. Run harder.

    It’s all your fault. Recruits dropping out? Work on your personality, or your look, or your leadership style. It has to be something you’re doing or not doing, because we all know the Mary Kay system works for you so long as you work for it.

    Carolyn’s story is a sober reminder of how evil MLMs like Mary Kay really are. 100 of her recruits came and went over a 5-year period; that’s about one every two-and-a-half weeks. And you can bet nearly every one of them came out poorer for the experience.

    Mary Kay is as rigged as a game of three-card monte. It just plays out more slowly so you suffer longer. Oh, and they blame and shun you when you cut your losses and walk away.

    Evil. It’s just evil.

  4. Not a Bot

    That is horrible of them to tell you that you were not likable when people canceled or didn’t show up for the parties. I guess if you feel bad about yourself and think it is your fault, you won’t blame the company and just try harder. The people who were warm chatted at KMart probably realized they got talked into something they didn’t want to do (and I don’t blame them for bailing). It also isn’t your fault the recruits decide to leave, they realize they can’t make money. It is an abusive relationship where the abuser blames you for their shortcomings. Also sick using one’s relationship with God as a means to end for success in MK.


Leave a Reply to NayMKWay Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *